At halftime* last night, I flipped over to watch the last few minutes of the Wizards-Bobcats game to find the Wizards’ crew talking about how Washington hadn’t yet beaten a team in its own division (the Southeast); they were 0-14 (or something like that) before rallying to beat the Bobcats, 95-93. (If a “rally” can include two straight turnovers on inbounds passes in the last 1:30).
The network broadcasting the game put up a graphic showing the worst divisional records in NBA history. No team has ever gone through a full season without a division win. Three or four have managed just one, and none had a worse record than the 1996-97 Celtics’ 1-23 showing in what was then a seven-team Atlantic Division. (The other one-win teams were 1-15, reflecting the less division-heavy schedule teams play now). If you’re reading this site, I probably don’t have to remind you this was the M.L. Carr-coached team that inarguably tanked in an effort to get Tim Duncan.
That one win? It came against Philly in the 81st game of the season. Here’s the box score from the epic 119-113 conquest.
Holy crap, that was a terrible team. Fun fact: Brett Szabo, Nate Driggers and Steve Hamer never played a game in the NBA again after the ’97 season, according to their Basketball Reference pages.
So, yeah. Last night’s loss was tough but it was nice to get a random reminder of the 1997 season, when I was in college in New Hampshire openly cheering for the team to lose and then talking myself into Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer. “It’s not Duncan, but Ron Mercer should score 18 a game right away in the NBA with that mid-range jumper.” Yup.
*Is it possible it wasn’t halftime given that both were East Coast games? Maybe. Let’s just say I flipped over during some break in the C’s game.